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Private Pilot Checkride

What Is a Checkride for Pilots: A Complete Guide

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Every pilot goes through rigorous testing and extensive training before receiving their full-fledged pilot’s license. However, pilot training looks nothing like long lectures in a stuffy classroom. It involves hands-on experience behind the yoke in the form of a checkride.

What is a checkride for pilots? It’s a practical test you must complete and pass to earn your airman certificate. For many aspiring pilots, it’s the last hurdle between them and their sky-high dreams.

Overview of What a Checkride for Pilots is

A checkride is the aeronautical equivalent of the driving test at the DMV. Before getting your driver’s license, you must demonstrate your knowledge and skill behind the wheel in real-time. The instructor keeps track of your performance and ensures only safe, skillful drivers get on the road.

Checkrides work similarly. Technically known as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Practical Exam, a checkride requires student pilots to listen to the flight instructors and perform basic maneuvers in the air. Once completed, you can get your pilot’s license.

Private pilot checkrides aren’t once-in-a-lifetime tests. Instead, you must pass these practical exams every time you add privileges to your certificate. Some companies even require each commercial pilot to complete a checkride annually.

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What to Expect on Your Private Pilot Checkride

FAA Practical Exams consist of an oral exam and a practical flight test. The actual flight is only part of the testing process, like the DMV driving test that comes after successfully completing a driver’s education program. But before the actual checkride, the student pilot must take a 60-question written test. 

The written exam (or knowledge test) and oral exam help prove how much the applicant knows about operating an aircraft. The practical flight exam puts that know-how into practice. Your examiner will take note of your performance during this final test, including how you go about the following:

  • Preparing the aircraft systems
  • Departing as if on a cross-country flight
  • Shifting course to a nearby airport
  • Sticking to protocols in an emergency scenario
  • Flying in different weather conditions
  • Maneuvering the plane mid-flight
  • Landing the craft

To know what you can expect on your specific checkride, we recommend reviewing the Airman Certification Standards (ACS). This document outlines all the tasks you’ll need to complete for your pilot certificate.

About the Checkride Flight Instructor

If you’re wondering what a checkride for a pilot is, you may also wonder who conducts it. Typically, a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) will oversee the practical test and instruct the student pilot throughout the flight. However, an FAA Aviation Safety Inspector (ASI) may also conduct this final exam.

DPEs are experienced pilots who undergo regular testing to demonstrate their knowledge and skill with the most up-to-date aircraft practices. They know what it takes to become a good pilot and have made a career out of flight training. For students going through flight schools, the head instructor might be the one who conducts the private pilot checkride.

The FAA does not randomly pair designated examiners with learning aviators. You can select your DPE through the FAA or your local flight school. However, your certified flight instructor (CFI) must be a different instructor from your FAA examiner, as this may lead to favoritism or bias during the practical test. 

How Long a Checkride Lasts

When it comes to duration, a checkride may vary from student to student. The length of the test depends mostly on the ACS document guidelines. For example, the checkride for a private pilot’s license may take less time than the checkride for a commercial pilot’s license because they require different skills.

That said, you can expect to spend about two hours on the oral exam and two hours on the actual flight. Once you’re up in the air, though, those two hours go like a shot. You’ll be back on the ground and looking forward to your license in no time!

How to Pass the Practical Test

Many people struggle with test-taking, and aviators are no exception. Even if the applicant feels confident in their knowledge and skill, a private pilot checkride can produce a lot of anxiety and stress. However, you can put yourself in the best position to pass by preparing correctly.

Here are some things you should do to make your check-ride a success:

  • Follow instructions: It’s simply the best advice that many students overlook. You must pay attention to your DPE and read the exam instructions to avoid silly mistakes. 
  • Study beforehand: Start digging into the ACS document early to prepare for test day. Also, go over a guide for the oral portion with other pilots to familiarize yourself with each question asked.
  • Perform mock checkrides: Many student pilots prepare with mock checkrides. With real-time practice, you can stay ready for checkride day.

Learn to Fly with Leopard Aviation

We hope you enjoyed learning, “What is a Checkride for Pilots,” and that this is your first step towards your future.

At Leopard Aviation, we offer the hands-on training and technical education you need to get your pilot’s license in Scottsdale or Mesa, AZ. Learn about discovery flights and call us at (480) 372-8967 to get started today!

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